by Valery PERKHAVKO, Cand. Sc. (Hist.), Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Teaching History at School journal
In the first half of the 17th century, after expulsion of the Polish and Swedish invaders, the uplift of culture characterized by development of secular, temporal, democratic elements in all its spheres and weakening of connection with the Church began in Russia together with prosperity of mechanical arts and trade. It was not so much landed gentry (who at that time did not have enough funds and time since they had to serve in the army) that made an important contribution to this process as rich representatives of the merchant class. The attitude of these people who firmly stood on the earth was reflected in creative work of national architects, painters, writers: inceptive interest in human being, his everyday demands and social realm defined strengthening of realistic motives in art.
The highest category of merchants the forming of which in our country dates back to the 16th century were guests. Usually the czar granted such a rank to those who rendered services to the state: sales of state goods abroad, purchase of goods, raw materials, products for the needs of authorities, organization of coinage, customs and public service, management of czar's factories, trades, etc. The number of members of the privileged stratum was small. For example, only 21 people attended Zemsky Council in 1598. Unlike other tradespeople (merchants, craftsmen who lived in towns and possads - settlements of town kind), they were free from a number of duties, often had estates though they were not entitled to purchase peasants. At the same time they were charged with a great deal of burdensome duties: they collected taxes from population, made special contributions to treasury, etc. The guest sotnia, the second by gentility category of entrepreneurs of which prosperous members of possad communities and peasants by state and monastery origin formed part, ser ... Читать далее